“What some say is a problem is actually a massive investment opportunity,” Nigeria’s Minister of Power Chinedu Nebo stressed at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit last week, discussing the widespread lack of energy access across the continent.
His words echoed those of OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield who previewed the historic summit in the Baltimore Sun, writing that while “casual political observers often focus on Africa’s natural resources, mineral wealth and conflicts … Africa is a massive and rapidly growing consumer market that is more fully appreciated by strategic investors with each passing day.”
Over more than four decades as the U.S. government’s development finance institution, OPIC has focused on spurring development through investment and recognized the private sector as a critical tool in achieving this. The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit exemplified this message, as billions of dollars in new investments were announced during the week, among them OPIC’s $50 million commitment to the Azura-Edo natural gas power plant in Nigeria, a project that further advances the Agency’s work supporting President Obama’s Power Africa initiative to double the number of people in Africa who have access to electricity. Secretary of State John Kerry referenced the Nigeria gas and other new energy investments, when he noted that “energy prosperity can replace energy poverty.”
OPIC’s work catalyzing private investment to advance development is focused strongly in Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for more than 20 percent of the Agency’s portfolio, and which is the site of both great need and great opportunity. Although the majority of the people on the continent lack access to power and large numbers suffer from poverty, lack of healthcare and formal education, it was repeatedly noted over the past week that the continent is rich in natural resources, especially people. With one of the largest youth populations on the planet, Africa’s population is expected to double to 2.4 billion by 2040.
This clear, growing opportunity was a common theme among African heads of state, U.S. officials and business leaders who met throughout the week, and who all cited the population growth, the abundance of resources, and the growing momentum of investor interest in Africa.
Important OPIC activities during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit week included:
OPIC’s President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield delivered the keynote address at the Corporate Council on Africa’s Power Africa Luncheon, an event that drew over 500 attendees and featured ministers of energy and power from Kenya, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.
During the August 5 U.S.-Africa Business Forum, Secretary of State John Kerry applauded the work of OPIC in supporting power projects in Africa and announced an additional $10 million commitment to the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance initiative. Along with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, OPIC is a key component of this initiative.
OPIC strengthened its commitment to the landmark Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in northern Kenya by signing two public letters of intent to support the project, with the African Development Bank and Aldwych International, both of which are partners in the Power Africa initiative. The 310-megawatt Lake Turkana project, when complete, will be the largest wind power project in Africa.
Throughout the week, OPIC leaders held bilateral meetings with African heads of state and ministers for finance, trade and energy from Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Lesotho, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Rwanda, Liberia and Malawi. OPIC also hosted a number of prospective private investors for a networking event to outline OPIC’s finance and political risk insurance products as crucial support tools for these investors to enter developing African markets.
Additional important OPIC activities included:
- A roundtable that OPIC hosted with the Millennium Challenge Corporation drew together African ministers and private-sector representatives for a frank and open exchange of ideas about moving forward with energy and infrastructure projects in Africa.
- OPIC also signed a letter of intent to support a game-changing Nigerian power plant, called Azura-Edo, with American Capital Energy and Infrastructure and Azura Power Holdings. The 459-megawatt Azura-Edo plant is the first phase in a facility with the potential to expand to over a thousand megawatts after further development.
- OPIC, Wells Fargo, and Attijariwafa Bank signed a memorandum of understanding to align efforts to expand small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) lending in Morocco and in other African countries where Attijariwafa operates.